Saturday, April 28, 2012

ROM Friday Night Live

On Friday, I checked out the ROM’s new Friday Night Live party with my husband and some friends. Launched last week, this 19+ event aims to bring a different crowd to Ontario’s largest museum by offering themed-nights that feature food, music, a Twitter hashtag and of course booze.

The night is supposed to start at 6 pm but when we arrived at 6:10, the doors were still locked and there was a long line outside of them (guess the ROM wants you to get that nightclub-feeling right from the start). After a bit of a wait, we were let in, paid our $9 and then it was party time.

Actually, it was people watching time. While the ROM is clearly aiming for a young crowd, there were a surprising number of older people, including several groups of middle-women.  Wardrobe choices also varied widely, everything from high heels and cocktail dresses to basic tees and jeans.

The bulk of FNL is set in Samuel Hall and Currelly Gallery (henceforth known as “the main area”), that large space that’s just beyond the lobby. Here you can purchase your beverages and food. The booze choices aren't anything exciting (there’s a small selection of beer, a horrible Riesling, a red and your typical rail drinks) but at $5-$6, I’m not complaining.

The food however… Well, what’s offered is certainly tasty (Fidel Gastro pork sandwiches, Jamie Kennedy fries, Waffle Bar waffles and c5 empanadas) but I would have like have had a few more options (grilled cheese perhaps) as well as lower prices. Yes, JK Frites are amazing but $5 for a cone is a little steep.

Then there’s the fact that food and drink can only be purchased using “ROM bucks.” While I understand why event planners use this system, I still think it’s a huge pain in the ass and one that results in me spending less money because I don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of ROM bucks at the end of the night.

Food and drink are, not surprisingly, restricted to the main area and, for some reason, part of the Gallery of China (I guess it’s OK to use a 500-year-old piece of Chinese architecture as a coaster). But the rest of the museum was open for viewing. Since Friday’s theme was “@ the Movies,” several documents were playing throughout the building.

This seemed like a great idea however in practice, I found that it didn’t quite work. Yes, we were given a slip of paper that listed the docs that were airing, and where, but then that was it. It would have been nice if the huge screen that was showing Hot Doc trailers on the main area would have periodically listed which movies were airing where and their start times. Another useful touch would have been big signs outside any of the galleries/spaces that were hosting films.

While the movies element wasn’t quite successful, I did really like that you could wander through the whole museum without having to worry about crowds, children or strollers. It was a surprisingly fun thing to do and was probably my favourite part of the night.

FNL runs until 11 but the galleries shut down around 9:30 pm so just before 10 we found ourselves back in the main area where it seemed like it was about to be party time. The music, which was previously an inoffensive and occasionally enjoyable mix of everything from Pet Shop Boys to Gotye, was now strictly dance music and was quite loud. So time to dance, right?

Uh, no. Instead people just continued to stand around, now yelling at each because of the volume of the music. While it did look like more than a few people wanted to dance, nothing ever happened, not even when the DJ played “The Music Sounds Better With You.” We figured if that wasn’t going to result in dancing, nothing would and so we left.

Would I go back?
I likely would check this event out again if a bunch of friends wanted to go but I would eat dinner first and be prepared not to dance.

Should you go? Friday Night Live runs every Friday until June 15. It's a fun night out if you’re not looking to party it up and it’s definitely a great way to see the ROM’s exhibits for cheap (assuming you skip the food). Tickets can be purchased in advanced if you want to skip the box office line or guarantee yourself a spot (though last night,while busy, wasn't sold out).

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